UPS, Teamsters Break Off Talks, Point Fingers

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One ultimatum deadline between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was passed successfully on Friday, raising hopes of a contract settlement. But another one is passing today, and with it prospects are someone dimmed after the two sides cut off talks at 4 a.m., with three weeks left until the current agreement expires.

Last week, the Teamsters issued an ultimatum that UPS deliver its “last best offer” by Friday. UPS presented a revised offer that day that the union said showed “significant movement on wages and other economic language,” and talks continued.

“UPS came back with real movement, but it isn’t enough,” said Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman. “After they left the room, our national committee had a long dialogue and the universal consensus was to continue our leverage campaign. One of two things is going to happen next — UPS will come to terms on a deal we can confidently recommend to our members or UPS will fail and the company will put itself on the street.”

Then on Saturday, UPS made some major concessions, eliminating a provision from the 2018 contract that created a separate tier of pay for junior drivers, cutting another that forced drivers to work overtime in a six-day week, and naming Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.

Firebrand Teamsters president Sean O’Brien said at the time that negotiations needed to end by July 5, in order to provide membership and leadership time to review and vote, even with weeks remaining until the July 31 expiration. O’Brien also said at a Saturday press conference that the union was pushing to raise the wage for part-time UPS workers from $15.50 to $20 per hour, according to Business Insider.

O’Brien and the Teamsters have often derisively brought up UPS’s frequent citation of its “industry-leading pay,” noting how 55% of its members at the carrier are part-time workers. Full-time UPS drivers can easily make six figures with benefits, but an increase in part-time driver pay was taken back last year.

The biggest issue in the negotiations, of course, is wages and benefits for Teamster employees of UPS, driving the continued brinksmanship.

This morning, contract talks broke off in the wee hours, according to the Teamsters. Both sides blamed the other for the impasse, creating uncertainty over the prospect of a contract settlement and increasing the possibility of a painful, costly strike of 340,000 union workers.

The Teamsters claim UPS walked away from negotiations after presenting “an unacceptable offer that did not address members’ needs.”

“This multibillion-dollar corporation has plenty to give American workers — they just don’t want to,” said O’Brien in a release. “UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road.” The union added that “no new negotiations are scheduled.”

“The Teamsters have stopped negotiating despite historic proposals that build on our industry-leading pay,” UPS fired back in a statement. “We have nearly a month left to negotiate. We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table.

“Refusing to negotiate, especially when the finish line is in sight, creates significant unease among employees and customers and threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy. Only our non-union competitors benefit from the Teamsters’ actions.

“We’re proud of what we’ve put forward in these negotiations, which deliver wins for our people. The Teamsters should return to the table to finalize this deal.”